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Councilman Henke scolded over inaccuracies he sent to the state

A Republican city councilman in Elkhart was scolded by Democrat colleagues over inaccuracies that he sent to the Indiana Public Access counselor last month involving allegations he made against the mayor and others.
Posted on March 8, 2013 at 12:00 a.m. | Updated on March 8, 2013 at 1:03 p.m.

ELKHART — David Henke, the most outspoken member of the Elkhart City Council, got an earful from Democrat colleagues late Monday night, March 4, over false accusations he had forwarded to a state office.

The longtime Republican council member was scolded by several Democrats at the end of a feisty, four-hour meeting concerning allegations he made last month that Mayor Dick Moore and Democrat council members had taken action during a Democratic party caucus meeting that he deemed to be illegal.

Henke took his accusations to the Indiana Public Access Counselor after state officials began looking into whether a Sept. 14, 2012, news conference Henke participated in had violated Indiana's Open Door law.

On Wednesday, March 6, the counselor concluded that some aspects of the news conference violated the state's Open Door Law.

A week earlier, the counselor had dismissed Henke's claim.

The state's opinion concerning Henke became circulated Monday afternoon — hours before a city council meeting — when Moore's office forwarded the findings to council members and the media.

Henke alleged Democrat council members, the mayor and the mayor's assistant attended a caucus meeting in May 2012 and that council members had been told how to vote on an appointment. He also alleged that Moore often uses strong-arm tactics to force council members to support his specific policy goals.

But his version of events included several inaccuracies involving names of people who did not actually attend and the name of a person whose appointment was sought. Among those not at the meeting was Moore and his assistant, Arvis Dawson.

Henke attempted to correct one of the facts submitted to the office and also asked that another name — Democrat councilman Ron Troyer — be removed from the complaint.

The claims were dismissed because caucus activities generally fall outside the scope of the Open Door Law.

On Monday night, Henke then heard a barrage of complaints from council members about his charges and inaccuracies.

The following recap of the 13-minute conversation is based on an audio recording of the meeting provided by the city and obtained by The Truth:

Councilman Brent Curry started by criticizing Henke for telling “lies to the state” and then recapped some of the inaccuracies. The two then had a terse exchange.

“You're like a big crybaby. You run to the state and tell them all these lies ...” Curry told Henke.

Henke: Did your sister tell you to say that?

Curry: I have the floor so be quiet.

Henke: Good for you.

Curry then pointed out that the state ruled they had done nothing improper.

“You're just a trouble-maker and the state proved you wrong and you owe the council an apology and you owe the city an apology and you need to straighten up and do what's best for the city of Elkhart,” Curry said.

Councilman Rod Roberson said Henke had crossed the line and that an apology was in order.

“Fair enough,” Henke said. “I will apologize to this council because my facts, as presented to me, were not in line.”

Henke said his assertions were based on what he remembered being told.

Curry: It was hearsay.

Henke: Be that as it may, what would you like? A pint of blood? What would you like, Mr. Curry?

Curry: I would like for you to read what the state said and realize that the Open Door policy allows for caucuses. I hope you read that and you understand it and I hope you don't tell those kind of lies ever again.

Minutes later, Democrat councilman Dave Osborne directed his thoughts to Henke: “I don't think this is the first time you got the facts wrong. Sometimes when you do get the facts wrong, you have a tendency to jump the gun.”

Tonda Hines, whose mother's name was mentioned erroneously in the Henke's accusations, said she and Henke had discussed the issue earlier and that he apologized. She said she had not planned to bring up the issue and found the circumstances to be an “embarrassment.”

Council president Ron Troyer, who repeatedly tried to calm emotions, reiterated Hines's assessment and called for an end to the conversation.

“It behooves us all to work together, shake if off and move on,” Troyer said.

The heated discussion ended at about 10:30 p.m.

Even though the council chambers had been crowded with people earlier in the meeting, only a handful of people were in the gallery at the time.

Among those still there was Moore, who has had a running feud with Henke and had a heated exchange with Henke earlier in the night.

Moore said Henke's inaccuracies call into question his credibility as a council member. He said he believes the council should consider a resolution condemning Henke's actions.

Henke said there was no malicious intent in his actions and has apologized for the errors of fact.

He said he thinks the scolding was probably the most chastising any council member may have ever experienced.

Council reaction could have been handled differently, he said.

“It was a gang pile and it was unprofessional,” Henke said.


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